Playful Precision & Upward Facing Dog

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Happy September! This month’s theme highlights the dance between playfulness and precision. While precision falls under the umbrella of cit {pure consciousness and effort}, playfulness falls under ananda {pure bliss and surrender}.

I also like to think of this as the balance between structure and spontaneity. Too much structure can lead to rigidity and an inability to adapt to life’s changes. On the other hand, too much spontaneity can leave us feeling ungrounded and craving that structure. We need a good dose of both to find the madhya (middle). In this case, the madhya between playfulness and precision is space.

This theme brings up what it means to be a student; to follow the tried and true alignment cues that a teacher offers while giving yourself room to play and experiment with your own nuanced movements and modes of expression. On the mat, this translates to practicing the alignment points that help open and strengthen your body in a safe and progressive way, while still taking those moments to explore. 

When we do this, we allow ourselves space to be seen and heard - by others and by ourselves. 

For me, finding playful precision means moving subtly in a different way, wiggling around or trying very slight movements to see which subtle shades of sensation show up in my body. Maybe I discover on my own how to deepen the stretch, or find a new and creative way to transition to the next pose.

It is the precision of proper alignment that keeps our practice sustainable and allows our body to practice for years to come, both preventing injury and progressing our practice.

It is the attitude of playfulness that keeps our practice exciting, fresh, creative and empowering, because it allows us to move into spaces of freedom and experimentation with our unique body and its unique modes of moving. It grants us the autonomy to find modifications that work for us, and it adds a special zest to the practice.

I like to refer to the precision as the base layers of the dish - they are valuable, foundational, and account for the bulk of the meal. Playfulness is the added touches of spice and flavor you layer on top. They enhance the dish and make it slightly varied each time. Both are vital for a savory meal.

Keep reading the asana lab below and discover how to apply this month’s theme to Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana). 


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Asana Lab:

Upward Facing Dog (Urdva Mukha Svanasana)

I wanted to start with this asana in my first Asana Lab because it's such a common pose in many yoga sequences. We do it so much through our vinyasa, but we tend to fly through it in one breath. This pose is so rich with alignment points and can help teach us about other parts of the practice, as long as we take the time to work within the pose.

Here are some foundation points in the pose. Think of this as the precision piece: alignment points that should be followed each time to keep the body aligned:

  • Hands underneath the shoulders, shoulder width or a little wider (if the shoulders are tighter). Spread your fingers wide and press firmly into your inner hands.

  • Tops of the feet pressing into the mat, toes spread and pressing as evenly as possible.

  • Thighs lift off the ground (or remain grounded for a variation on Cobra Pose).

Here are the more subtle aspects of the pose. This will enhance your pose on deeper layers and add more sensation to the posture (whether that’s visible or not):

  • Micro-bend your elbows back so can hug your shoulder blades together and open across the collarbones

  • Pull your hands and feet toward one another to help spread the collarbones and pull your chest through your arms.

  • Inner thighs lift skyward and tailbone drives toward the heels (to protect your lower back and engage your lower belly)

  • Chin lifts, throat opens

  • And for fun, you can rock your weight back and forth a little (for those days when you are digging a little bit of movement!)

Let me know how it goes! Either in class, on Facebook and Instagram, in a comment below, or by emailing me at sldiedrick@gmail.com. I'd love to hear more about your practice!